Gluten makes me angry and irritable, tired but wired, achy, moody (up one minute and down the next) and prone to headaches and stomachaches. When consuming gluten I alternate between constipation and diarrhea, have painful and irregular menstruation, and feel a lack of appetite after eating bread or pizza, followed with an insatiable need to eat and eat without feeling full.
Eating gluten also affects my temperature tolerance. I was always cold yet I could not tolerate much heat and humidity. My spouse and children are the same but one son also gets skin rashes.
As a family we gained back our summers, doing more outdoor activities. Walking around county and state fairs without someone falling to the side with a bad headache and discomfort. Boating and swimming on hot days without the usual flares of anger at one another. We could do yard work without complaint. Now when someone tells me they can’t tolerate heat and humidity, I have to wonder if they are intolerant to gluten.
Some people can go gluten free for a while and then be fine eating it again. I have realized that’s not me, though. When I lapse, the above symptoms come back.
It is beneficial to me but it wasn’t and isn’t easy. Going gluten free in the beginning was very hard and there were negligible changes. Real improvements came after about a year of avoidance. This was a decade ago, before stores had gluten free labels all over the place. Every label had to be read (which doubled my time grocery shopping). Gluten free bread cost seven dollars a loaf and tasted like compressed paper. Now you can find it for five bucks a loaf (still insane, I know) but (so long as it is toasted) the quality is much improved.
We mostly avoided gluten free products in the beginning due to cost, our disgust with the taste, and unavailability. We ate food which was naturally gluten free. Rice, rice and beans, potatoes, meat and vegetables. I tried lentils and chickpeas, sorghum and millet, for the first time. We grew a bigger garden and built a root cellar to store homegrown potatoes.
We wasted less food. Leftovers from meals were often fought over, or labeled with names, in the fridge. I remember the days of throwing out leftovers or the heels of cheap wheat bread without a second thought. When a small loaf of bread is five bucks you end up saving every crumb and heel in the freezer and using it for stuffing or breading! I spent far more time in the kitchen than I had prior. I love cooking and being in the kitchen so that was good. Rearranging my busy mom/business owner life so that I could spend more time there was complicated. Looking back, though, I’m glad to have spent more time at home and less at the office; when my children were still growing.
It took a long time to figure out that things like licorice, certain kinds of beef jerky, soy sauce, and the fries at McDonalds are not gluten free (whoops).
I am convinced my body pain would have led me to therapy a few years sooner than it did, had I not gone gluten free when I did. (Though, maybe entering therapy sooner would have been a good thing!?). For several years my digestion was ‘regular’ and easy and my body pain nearly disappeared.
But, the mind still has a huge role in our physical health and well being; and vice versa. In the end, my buried trauma did not disappear with the gluten…my digestion acted up again, hence over the years I kept tweaking my diet further. Body pain kept surfacing in my upper back and neck, so I sought out physical therapy and then eventually cognitive behavioral therapy and talk therapy.
When I began CBT we looked at my diet and my therapist told me that being gluten free would give me a leg up in the recovery process. Research shows a strong link between gluten intolerance, anxiety, and other mental health issues.
You may be skeptically wondering: why have people been eating wheat for thousands of years and now nearly everyone claims to be intolerant to it?
I wondered the same. And I still don’t know. In all the reading I’ve done, though, the simplest theory I found is that in the 1930’s and 40’s strains of wheat, mostly untouched from Bible times, was hybridized for higher yields. Thereby the natural gluten content of wheat was increased (Norman Borlaug won a Nobel Peace Prize for this work, because he ended famine around the world). A dietary staple that once yielded ten bushels an acre was now capable of yielding forty to fifty. This was, overall, a good thing. It ended famines around the world!
Most advancements (cell phones and computers, for instance), are the same. While they bring a host of good to the world, there are always, always, many downsides too.
Either way, I just want to clarify that I don’t ‘hate’ gluten. I think it’s a lovely thing! I miss it dearly!
However, gluten seems to hate me.
Gluten makes bread chewy and that’s what I miss the most. So on days when I just want some chewy bread, I make my own yeast-free flatbread, and it only takes about twenty minutes (with cooking time)! You may need to wait longer than that just for the oven to heat up…Chewy bread is really hard to find in a processed gluten free product, so I cheat the process and add some psyllium husk (psyllium husk is the main ingredient in Metamucil), you should be able to find it at a health food store. Otherwise, here is the brand I like.
This is also the bread recipe we use when we want to have a home-based communion, or for our family Passover meals in the spring. So when you score it with a knife and fork, if you are so inclined, you can make the sign of the cross on the round, and the fork marks are reminders of Jesus stripes and wounds bringing us healing and salvation.
On days when I am feeling particularly repentant and/or thankful, making this flat bread, and going through the process of scoring it with a knife and watching it bake up in that hot oven is also very healing for my spirit.
Easy Gluten Free Flat Bread
Preheat oven to 450 degrees (or 475 if your oven tends to run on the colder side). Prepare a baking sheet or a pizza pan with a piece of parchment paper. It is best if the baking sheet or pizza pan has ‘holes’ in it, but it should work with any pan. Just be sure to use a sheet of parchment paper.
In a small mixing bowl put the following in the exact order shown
- 1 T psyllium husk mixed with 3 T very warm water until it forms a thick gel
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 t salt
- 1 t apple cider vinegar
- 1 t oil (sesame or canola oil is best)
- 1 t honey
- 1 Cup GF flour of choice (Namaste GF flour is the ‘stickiest’ brand I’ve found so if you are looking for a chewier bread you can try that brand. Otherwise you can use 1/2 cup brown rice flour, 1/4 cup tapioca starch and 1/4 cup potato starch)
Mix all the above with a fork until it is well mixed and forms a ball in the bowl. Spread, with moistened fingers, in a circle onto the parchment covered cookie sheet or pizza pan until it is about a half inch thick and fairly uniform. If the dough is sticky, keep wetting your fingers with fresh water and press it into a circle. Score the circle with a knife, up and down and left to right. Prick all over with a fork (optional).
Bake for five-seven minutes in 450 degree oven and then flip over to the other side and continue baking for another five-seven minutes.
This is best eaten fresh and still warm. But it will keep for about a day on the counter.